Three Top Mountain, Creston, NC

While this trail is not the easiest place to find, it is worth the effort. I hope the video gives you an idea of how beautiful the hike is and how extraordinary the panoramic views are. While there are three rocky peaks along this southern Appalachian ridge, only one is easy to reach. These formations are part of Ashe County’s distinctive erosion-resistant amphibolite bedrock.

Three Top is now owned by the State of North Carolina, so don’t let the private property signs deter you. The Nature Conservancy purchased much of the land here and some was donated by a private individual. As you wind up the curvy mountain road, you see the state’s Game Land signs as the mountain is protected by the NC Wildlife Resource Commission (and if you hike in the fall, wear bright colors for safety).

The map below will get you here, but here are a few helpful tips once you reach the Three Top residential development at the base of the mountain. From Boone, take Hwy 421 to Trade, TN. Take a right onto TN 67, which becomes NC Hwy. 88. Take a right onto Three Top Rd. After the second bridge, turn left (still on Three Top Rd) and you’ll pass the Creston, NC Post Office on the right. Take a left onto Eller Rd. and head up the hill into the Hidden Valley residential community. Take a right on Poplar Rd., which dead-ends so don’t take it to the end. Keep winding up the mountain (as the road permits; it was washed out the last time I hiked it, so I parked along the road). There is a small gravel parking lot but no trailhead signage, just a brown bar marking the start of the trail. You’ll want to follow the Game Land signs. The video will help you see what your markers are. Good luck and do go for a most memorable day in one of North Carolina’s hidden gems. You won’t find this one in the guidebooks. It’s our secret!!!

Length: 5 mile out-and-back
Difficulty: Moderate (all uphill to the summit with few level areas).
Elevation Gain: Approximately 800′
Duration: 2-2.5 hrs.
Formerly an ATV trail, it is a bumpy but not rocky trail.
What you can expect to see: views, views, and more views from the top, wildflowers, rock formations, waterfalls, clean drinking water, so water is available for your canine companions.

I hope you enjoy the video with the music of our beloved Doc Watson!

Elk Knob State Park

This is one of my favorite hikes because in just under 2 miles, you experience gorgeous panoramic views of the Blue Ridge range, including Mt. Mitchell on a clear day. Over the course of approximately 2 years, rangers and volunteers have transformed the trail from an old logging road to a beautiful gravel/stone trail that gently traverses Elk Mountain. The trail is an out-and-back, just under 4 miles.

Trail Difficulty: Easy to Moderate/ trail is easy on the feet, no special shoes required.
Trail Distance: Just under 4 miles
Water: None, bring water for canine companions.
What you can expect to see: Beautiful panoramas from 2 viewing areas with placards for identification of peaks in the Blue Ridge range, wildflowers, Flame Azaleas, wild blueberries, birds.

Laurel Falls Gorge Trail, Hampton, TN

Once you hike this trail, it will be one of your all-time favorites. “Pictures don’t do it justice,” certainly applies to the attached video. The trail is special because it is beautiful with hypnotic cascading water that sets a rhythm for your pace. It is the feeling of the place and the constant element of surprise and delight on the final descent to the 55-ft waterfall that draws me time after time. The trail can be a bit muddy in a small section at the first uphill.

Distance: 5.22 miles roundtrip

Time: 2:35 hrs. Be sure to alot plenty of time to sit and view the magical waterfall!

Elevation Gain: 1,300 ft (2,000′-2,300′)
What you can expect to see: The trail ends at a gorgeous 55-ft waterfall (which is really full this spring with the abundance of rain recently). The trail, which follows the stream most of the way, has old rhododendron woods, wildflowers, rock formations, cliffs, and lots of cascading water (bridges provide easy crossings).

Level of Difficulty: easy to moderate
Lots of water for canine companions!

Enjoy the video and the music of the Grammy Award-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops!

Boone Fork Trail

The 5-mile Boone Fork Trail is one of our area’s lovliest hikes, a lush loop through woods, along a roaring cascade, and ending in a quiet marsh. You may be lucky enough to see deer, as I did on my recent romp. Once you descend gently into the gorge, the trail gets muddy at times, so be prepared. There is little elevation gain, so the hike is relatively easy. Allow 4-5 hrs. to enjoy lunch on a boulder perch above the water.

Enjoy the video and the music of the Grammy Award-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops!

Mt Rogers, Virginia’s High Point

This is stunningly beautiful country with panoramic views within 30-minutes of the parking lot at Massie Gap in Grayson Highlands State Park ($2 entry fee for day hikers).
Distance: 8 miles round trip to top of mtn (where the views are). Great place to rest, soak in the scenery and have lunch. Add an extra mile for the Mt Rogers summit in a lush forest.
Most of the trail is rocky–wear appropriate shoes for rough terrain.
Elevation gain: 1,499 (4,900-5,500)
Bring water for canine companions.
What you’ll see: wild ponies, long-range views, Fraser Fir forests, Appalacian Trail through-hikers (most at the 500-mile mark!), Grandfather Mtn, Beech, Sugar, Peak, Snake, Elk Knob and many more!
Great campsites at the top!

Sit back and watch some video highlights and enjoy the music of the wonderful Kruger Brothers…

Kissed by Nature

I love to walk! That’s it, pure and simple. So, upon our return from a month in Chile and Argentina, hiking some of Patagonia’s most iconic mountains, my husband Jimmy presented me with this challenge: a 6-month blog of three hikes a week. Well, I’ve never been interested in social networking, much less blogging! So, here goes…


At 58, I’ve walked all my adult life: hardly missed a day, following in my dad’s footsteps. Like all nature-lovers, setting out on a wooded trail is an open invitation into the unknown, an alluring quality that can’t be defined. At first, it’s the beauty of nature: the million shades of green, the smells that are so foreign you don’t have a vocabulary for them, the sounds of creatures flying and foraging. Once your senses fully awaken, something even more magical happens. You effortlessly let go of your busy thoughts and commune with an ethereal realm that somehow makes more sense. Nature is the great soother, the mystical teacher, and we love her for everything she stirs within us.

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Every year, I say I’m going to venture into more of the Appalachian mountains, but Iife gets in the way. Not this year. My sweet guy has given me an irresistible challenge. Let’s you and I set out on this adventure together and share our experiences, for the sheer fun of it!